Tu B’Shevat Primer & Blessings

For those of you that haven’t celebrated Tu B’Shevat before, here is a brief primer and the key blessings.

Tu B’Shevat originally was commemorated for purposes of calculating tithes. In Leviticus 19:23-25, it is written that only in the 5th year shall the fruit of a tree be eaten, so it is important to know when you’ve reached that period. Tu B’Shevat itself is not mentioned in the Torah, only in the Mishnah as a way of giving trees an official birthday of sorts, so you can mark their age.

Tu B’Shevat is one of the four New Years in the Hebrew calendar. It literally means the 15th of Shevat. Tu B’Shevat has become to be celebrated as an environmental awareness day or agricultural holiday, particularly in Israel. Some compare it to Arbor Day. As a minor Jewish holiday, there are a variety of customs and ways it can be observed, but because it is not a Biblical holiday, few hard and fast rules to follow.

CUSTOMS
Activities and things to do on Tu B’Shevat:

  • Eat symbolic fruits and nuts, particularly those that grow on trees and among the seven species of Israel (grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates)
  • Recite Sheheheyanu upon eating a specie for the first time that year
  • Perform a Tu B’Shevat Seder
  • Plant a tree

TU B’SHEVAT SEDER
In the 17th Century, Kabbalists developed a seder ritual for Tu’B Shevat. The Hillel Foundation has a comprehensive Tu B’Shevat Guide which covers conducting a Tu B’Shevat Seder. This seder is becoming more commonly celebrated.

TU B’SHEVAT BLESSINGS
Here are the key blessings for Tu B’Shevat.

Upon eating a species for the first time this year, say Shehecheyanu:

Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Haolam Shehecheyanu Vekiyimanu Vehigianu Lizman Hazeh.

Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

Upon eating a fruit or nut:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam borei pri ha-etz.

Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.

Upon eating grapes or drinking wine:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam borei pri hagafen.

Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Upon eating bread:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam, hamotzi lehem min ha-aretz.

Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Upon eating other baked goods and grains:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam, borei minay m’zonot.

Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who creates various kinds of foods.

L’Chaim!

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